Dear Dr. LaScala:
I am a junior at Monte Vista High School in Danville. My parents often show me your articles and I have a question for you. I am just beginning my college search and I'm very interested in focusing on "Sustainability Studies" in college. This area will be covered in my advanced placement biology class under ecology, but I wanted to get an idea about majors in the field and what colleges might have Sustainability programs or majors. ~Eileen
Thanks for writing and asking such an interesting question. Many high school students have very specific interests when applying to college. So understanding and finding college programs that suit those interests can be fun and challenging. Yours is a good example.
"Sustainability" studies in ecology describe how biological systems remain diverse and productive over time. "Sustainability Engineering" is all about how to keep these environments healthy. Wetlands and forests are examples of sustainable biological systems and it is important to keep these systems healthy to protect our coastlines and provide oxygen to our planet. For us humans, achieving sustainability will enable the Earth to continue to support life as we know it.
Sustainability studies are relatively new to ecology and very new as an area of study in college. So to find out information about these programs you may need to do quite a bit of searching. To give you some idea of the breadth of the field, the following is a short list of some key terms: ecosystem services, sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, green technologies, environmental management, conservation biology, urban planning and ethical consumerism. Your AP Biology textbook is a great place to begin collecting more information; however, most textbooks concentrate on molecular biology and give scant treatment to ecology. As a result, you should continue to research the topic as well as consider taking a college level class or a program next summer to further expose you to the field. The internet provides a wealth of information to get you started thinking about the topics that interest you most.
Colleges and universities nationwide have recognized the need for new programs and majors which prepare graduates for sustainability and sustainability-related career paths. For example, in 2010 some new options for undergraduates included: Sustainable business (Aquinas College) Global environmental change and sustainability (Johns Hopkins University), Environmental studies (Reed College), Conservation and environmental analysis (Scripps College) and Environmental resource management (in the College of Natural Resources & Environment at Virginia Tech). The Book of Majors published by CollegeBoard is a great print resource and is updated every year.
Good luck in your college search!
Elizabeth LaScala, Ph.D. is an educational consultant and certified college admission advisor. Her goal is to help freshman applicants as well as transfer students and their families understand the admissions process, research college and career options, create a balanced college list and submit strong and cohesive applications. She is familiar with local high schools and has guided three daughters through the college admissions process in addition to more than 300 clients. Dr. LaScala is an active member of NACAC, WACAC, and HECA and earned a certification in College Admissions and Career Planning from University of California at Berkeley. Contact her at (925) 891-4491 or firstname.lastname@example.org.